Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been living in Ecuador’s London embassy since the winter of 2012. But it doesn’t look like the country has a plan for getting rid of Assange any time soon. And the president of Ecuador is voicing his increased frustration with the entire saga.
Lenin Moreno, the current president of Ecuador, described Assange as “more than a nuisance” to his nation’s TV stations on Sunday, calling Assange an “inherited problem“. Moreno “inherited” Assange because the previous president, Rafael Correa, was the one to originally grant asylum to the Australian who became an ally of authoritarians such as US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Assange was in contact with the Trump campaign and released stolen Democratic emails before the 2016 US presidential election, but Ecuadorian officials have become increasingly concerned with his interference and controversies around the globe since he started hiding in their cupboard. Ecuador has gone so far as to cut off Assange’s internet access temporarily.
Assange took up residence in Ecuador’s embassy to skip bail on two sex assault-related charges in Sweden in 2012. And despite the fact that charges have been dropped in Sweden on a technicality, British authorities have still promised to arrest him if he steps foot outside of the embassy. Any foreign embassy is considered that country’s territory under international law, therefore Assange is now on Ecuadorian soil despite being in London.
Ecuador thought it had found the solution when it granted Assange citizenship earlier this month, hoping that the UK would recognise some kind of diplomatic immunity for the WikiLeaks personality. But the British say that nothing has changed and he’ll still be arrested if he leaves.
“This would have been a good result,” President Moreno said Sunday about the plan to give Assange citizenship and diplomatic immunity. “Unfortunately, things did not turn out as the foreign ministry planned and so the problem still exists.”
During last year’s presidential elections in Ecuador, Moreno promised not to evict Assange if he became president. His right-wing opponent, Guillermo Lasso, said that if he was elected, Assange would be kicked out within 30 days. Moreno won with 51 per cent of the vote.
Ecuador’s foreign diplomats say that they have no plans to kick Assange out of the embassy, despite their obvious frustrations with his presence. But Assange has floated other ideas about how he can get out.
“It would be real easy and helpful for your dad to suggest that Australia appoint Assange ambassador to DC,” WikiLeaks told Donald Trump Jr in a direct message through Twitter shortly after the US election.
It seems rather unlikely that Assange’s native Australia would approve of his cozying up to the American president. A majority of Australians (77 per cent) believe that the world is more dangerous under President Trump. And given Assange’s role in helping Trump ascend to that office, making the white-haired anarchist an ambassador to anything seems like a non-starter as the world has a good laugh (albeit through gritted teeth) at President Trump’s incompetence.